Maharashtra rebels in Guwahati: Horsetrading amid floods

The Indian Express | 1 day ago | 23-06-2022 | 07:45 pm

Maharashtra rebels in Guwahati: Horsetrading amid floods

The battle for the heart of Maharashtra unfolds before us like a scene out of the Greco Roman wars. On one side, we have the somewhat battle-weary combined forces of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi; on the other, Eknath Shinde, the mighty dissident from the Shiv Sena with his swelling band of brothers, claiming that the coalition that the Sena had made with Sharad Pawar’s NCP and Sonia Gandhi’s Congress was unholy. Though it is being publicly denied, strong support is coming from the BJP headed by Devendra Fadnavis, still smarting from being dethroned by the MVA, and consumed by the desire for regaining his lost throne. The great strength of the camp supporting Shinde, as we all know, is the north’s demographic strength — numbers, the immeasurable human mass that BJP-ruled states hold, ready to pulverise the enemy who snatched away India’s financial capital successfully.Operation Grab Back began a few days ago when a few air-conditioned buses were said to have carried dissidents from the MVA into Gujarat’s Surat and kept them in a five-star hotel awaiting orders. This is, by now, a familiar scenario, repeated in many states before toppling an elected government and replacing it with one that is more Centre-friendly.As things began stirring in Mumbai and Surat this time, suddenly and inexplicably, three chartered planes flew dissidents, whose ranks had swelled, from the arid climes of Surat to the flood-ravaged north-eastern state of Assam. In Guwahati, as in Surat, they are reportedly staying in a five-star luxury hotel. As we all know, Assam is facing floods and landslides that have killed almost 100, rendered almost 3 lakh homeless and nearly submerged 32 of the state’s 36 districts.Questions arise, like who has been funding these expensive disaster tourism ventures for dissidents opposing the MVA, of which they are still a part? Who funded the trips in air conditioned buses to Surat and picked up the tab for stays in five-star hotels in both Surat and Guwahati? The Maharashtra BJP state chief Chandrakant Patil says his party has nothing to do with what has been happening in the Sena’s ranks and will not stake a claim for government formation. However, Shinde and his friends were received by a BJP MP and a BJP MLA at Guwahati airport.While the political drama is still unfolding in Mumbai and Delhi, with Uddhav Thackeray moving out of his official residence and the swelling numbers of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs being feted at Radisson Blu in Guwahati, it seems more likely than not that the MVA government may fall. It may be cause for glee in the ranks of those who engineered this coup, but it still leaves another question unanswered: What possessed the powers that be to undertake this unseemly horse trading in a state reeling under unprecedented floods? Media savvy as they are, did they not pause to think of how the images of the homeless rushing to safe spaces with their minimal possessions would play against the backdrop of MLAs thumping each other on the back and smiling for the cameras in plush hotels?It is unlikely that the Assam Chief Minister, during his much publicised train journey through the affected areas, had failed to notice how inadequate the air dropping of food and relief materials was proving to be in the face of the deluge. Didn’t he point out to the organisers of this teddy bears’ picnic at the Radisson Blu how hunger and disease are stalking the beleaguered land, and that his first duty was to the citizens of Assam? Such indifference to public opinion brings to mind Herodotus, witness to the endless bloodied procession of armies during the multicultural wars and the end of Xerxes, the powerful Persian King of Kings: “The end is not apparent from the very outset.”Herodotus, a passionate advocate of freedom and democracy and a foe of despotic behaviour, would make good reading in these times for our elected representatives. Herodotus never blames human beings, he blames the system. It is the system that creates the soldiers and the kings and the learned men eventually. And their quality determines the end result. At the end of the Greco Persian wars, a handful of free speaking, ever squabbling Greeks won because they were defending what is most defensible: The right of all citizens to be treated well, to be heard, to live with dignity befitting a human being. The Persians, with their great disciplined ranks, lost, because they worshipped at the feet of one supreme leader unquestioningly, with no arguments.The Maharashtra dissidents enjoying themselves at someone else’s expense, in five-star luxury surrounded by misery, devastation, land erosion and death, are a metaphor, a symbol and sign of our times. They point to the borders that have been drawn between the common citizens and the political class they vote for. The millions that are being squandered on people’s representatives who are defying their given mandate, could have been at the service of the state’s disaster management department to help the people of Assam who have lost their homes, their crops and their self respect.This is not the first instance, nor will it be the last. Year after year, crisis brews in a state and crores are wasted in supporting completely irrational dissidence through undemocratic means. To think that, decades ago, Mumbai was India’s first multi language metropolitan city where VK Krishna Menon, a rank “outsider”, could win an election and rise to be a Union minister.What went wrong? Things changed with the rise of linguistic chauvinism. Once it began to tug at the political imagination, Maharashtra hit out at Gujaratis, and then, at South Indians and other “Others”. Sadly, politicians from various ideological camps discarded their core ideology of liberal multiculturalism and joined the xenophobic supporters of “Maharashtra for Maharashtrians” and Marathi chauvinists. In 1966, a cartoonist, Bal Thackeray created the Shiv Sena, and soon established a mindset that was anything but amusing. The wall built around the state is today simultaneously its shield and a trap. Such walls do not make good neighbours. They will always make state politics a target for the entry of Trojan horses from UP to Guwahati.The writer is former chairperson, Prasar Bharati

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Rival Shiv Sena factions call meetings as Maharashtra political crisis continues: Key developments
Times of India | 1 hour ago | 25-06-2022 | 12:05 pm
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1 hour ago | 25-06-2022 | 12:05 pm

NEW DELHI: There is no end in sight for the Maharashtra political crisis and the tussle within the Shiv Sena, as the rebel MLAs led by Eknath Shinde seem prepared to stay put in Guwahati. They are awaiting clarity on two moot points before contemplating a return to Mumbai- the possible disqualification of 16 dissident MLAs and the appointment of the chief whip in the legislative assembly. The battle could well get dragged to the courts as the two sides look closely at the legal options available. Eknath Shinde tweets rebel MLA's letter to Thackeray: CM was inaccessible to usUddhav Thackeray has called a meeting of the party's national executive committee on Saturday at 1pm. The meeting will be held at Mumbai's Shiv Sena Bhavan which the CM will join virtually. Maharashtra crisis live updatesThe rebel faction of Eknath Shinde will also convene for a meeting at Radisson Blu Hotel in Guwahati this afternoon to discuss further strategy, sources said. Maharashtra crisis: Shiv Sena workers smear black ink on rebel MLA Sada Sarvankar's postersHere are the latest developments in the Maharashtra political saga: Eknath Shinde writes to CM Thackeray over security concernsRebel Shiv Sena MLA Eknath Shinde has shot off a letter to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and all police commissioners in the state, claiming that the security to the family members of the 38 "rebel" MLAs have been "maliciously" withdrawn. He alleged that MVA leaders have instigated their cadres to take up violence against the rebel MLAs and intimidate them. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has threatened that they would not be able to move around in Maharashtra, he said. Shinde further said that in Punjab, the security of high profile persons was removed and then they became the targets of goons and gangsters. he expressed concern that the same could happen in Maharashtra. 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Why Eknath Shinde's rebellion made Shiv Sena stop and take noteThe party's petition to the deputy speaker seeking disqualification of 16 MLAs including rebel leader Eknath Shinde has sought to invoke para 2 (1) (a) of the 10th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which governs 'disqualification on grounds of defection'. Maha crisis: Eknath Shinde showcases strength, releases first video with 42 rebel MLAs from Guwahati280 MVA decisions in 4 days; ‘rebels’ arranged orders, funds before flightThe MVA government led by CM Uddhav Thackeray has taken 280 decisions since Monday. "It seems that the rebel cabinet members ensured that all relevant orders are issued before they leave Mumbai, an official said. "They took proper care: orders have been issued and adequate budgetary provisions made for the purpose," he said. 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'Rebels in no hurry to leave Guwahati until key issues resolved'Former minister and Shiv Sena MLA Deepak Kesarkar, who is now in the Eknath Shinde camp, told TOI on Friday said the rebel group is in no hurry to return to Maharashtra until two issues - the possible disqualification of 16 dissident MLAs and the appointment of the chief whip in the legislative assembly- are resolved. Kesarkar said, "How can they have their chief whip when their house strength has dwindled to 15 members. Our group has the support of 38 Sena MLAs. These moves are completely unconstitutional. If there is a vote of no-confidence, the downfall of the present government will be imminent." "The petition for disqualification of the 16 MLAs is on ground that they did not attend a meeting of Sena legislators. This meeting was called at very short notice and they must remember that Maharashtra is a big state and, in some parts, it takes at least 10-12 hours to reach Mumbai. How can these MLAs travel from their home district to Mumbai in such a short time? " he said.

Rival Shiv Sena factions call meetings as Maharashtra political crisis continues: Key developments
Maharashtra political crisis: Rebel MLAs cannot be disqualified for absence at party meetings as that’s outside assembly, say experts
Times of India | 4 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 08:31 am
Times of India
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MUMBAI: The political drama unfolding in Maharashtra now has legal experts divided too on whether disqualification can be sought for the ‘rebels’ in the Shiv Sena. However, most are in agreement that the MLAs cannot be disqualified on grounds of not attending recent party meetings as that is outside the ambit of legislative affairs. The party’s petition to the deputy speaker seeking disqualification of 16 MLAs including rebel leader Eknath Shinde has sought to invoke para 2 (1) (a) of the 10th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which governs ‘disqualification on grounds of defection’. A senior counsel from Delhi said the party may be relying on a 2019 Supreme Court judgment in a Karnataka case to argue that the actions of the MLAs would “portray defection.” The Sena plea is that at a “crucial time” during “political uncertainty” when the party needed to consolidate, meetings were called on June 21-22 and despite issuing notices, these MLAs did not attend and instead left for Surat and Guwahati which are in BJP-ruled States. The plea said the BJP, in a conspiracy with these MLAs, is trying to topple the govt and in these circumstances, their not attending the meetings amounted to voluntarily giving up membership of the party; remaining incommunicado and not responding to the call of the leadership also shows that they have given up membership and hence they should be disqualified, it said. However, former attorney general S G Aney said the disqualification process would be “void” legally as not attending the meetings would not amount to quitting the party. Lack of attendance at meetings “cannot be taken into the realm of legislature’s action and the Speaker has no authority over the matter. At best it would be a matter for the party’s internal consideration for consequences on such unbecoming behavior,” said Aney. Anil Sakhare, a senior counsel, also agreed that at this juncture it may not attract disqualification. Senior counsel Prasad Dhakephalkar said the situation is “very fluid’’ but if by their conduct it can be shown that they have left the party, then it may attract disqualification. “But rebels can claim merger,” he added. To overcome any threat of disqualification they have to show 2/3rd members of a party have merged with another party. Under the 10th Schedule paragraph 4, disqualification on grounds of defection would not apply in case of a merger with another party. “It will eventually depend on the facts which at the moment are not all clear,’’ said another senior counsel from Delhi. He added, “At this stage prima facie, there can be no disqualifications since not attending the meeting does not amount to voluntarily giving up the membership of the party. It would depend on the explanation that the member may give. A party cannot single out a few members if there is support of two-third members in the rebel faction. The Karnataka case was different on facts.”

Maharashtra political crisis: Rebel MLAs cannot be disqualified for absence at party meetings as that’s outside assembly, say experts
Covid cases drop slightly in Maharashtra; CM Uddhav Thackeray urges warkaris to use masks
Times of India | 7 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 06:15 am
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7 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 06:15 am

MUMBAI: While Covid-19 cases dipped in Maharashtra on Friday, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray appealed to lakhs of warkaris walking towards Pandharpur during Ashadhi Wari to use face masks to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission. The state had registered its highest single-day tally in this surge on Thursday at 5,218, but cases dropped by 20% to 4,205 on Friday. Mumbai saw a 24% drop, with 1,898 cases registered on Friday. "We had a problem updating our data on the ICMR website for a couple of days and that led to a bunching up of cases on Thursday. But the data is now updated and Mumbai is back to reporting less than 2,000 cases a day," said BMC executive health officer Dr Mangala Gomare. Two nonagenarians with chronic conditions succumbed to Covid-related complications in Mumbai while the neighbouring Thane city registered a death. Daily hospitalisations which had gone past 100 dropped on Friday to 96. The daily test positivity rate which had increased to 20% a few days back was 12% for the second consecutive day. Dr Gomare said that cases should start plateauing soon. Dr Gautam Bhansali, who is a member of the state Covid task force, said that despite the surge, patients are recovering with minimum medication within a few days. "There is no need to panic at all,'' he said. The surge has been limited to five districts-Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Palghar and Raigad-but the state administration is worried about the Pandharpur yatra. Of the 4,205 cases on Thursday, 3,354 (80%) were detected in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. A state official said, "Active cases in the state have crossed 25,000 as compared to 626 a couple of months back. In this backdrop, the chief minister held a video-conference instructing district collectors, municipal commissioners and district police superintendents to take steps to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19.'' Meanwhile, another patient of BA.5 variant has been detected in Nagpur. State surveillance officer Dr Pradip Awate said a fully vaccinated 27-year-old female tested Covid-positive on June 19. "She was mildly symptomatic initially but has since become asymptomatic and is stable and in home isolation,'' he added. The total tally of BA.4 and BA.5 variant cases in the state has increased to 26-15 in Pune, five in Mumbai, four in Nagpur and two in Thane.

Covid cases drop slightly in Maharashtra; CM Uddhav Thackeray urges warkaris to use masks
Grim mood in Uddhav Thackeray camp: Sanjay Raut dares rebels to return
Times of India | 7 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 05:44 am
Times of India
7 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 05:44 am

MUMBAI: As the face-off between the Shiv Sena leadership and the rebels drags on, the Thackeray camp has shed its reconciliatory approach. Senior leaders said in the first two days after the crisis blew up, there was a difference of opinion on whether the chief minister should resign and quit the MVA or face a floor test. According to a source, one section suggested that Uddhav Thackeray should resign and talk to the MLAs after leaving the coalition; others advocated a tough line saying the CM must not give in to pressure from dissidents. CM himself made an emotional pitch in his speech on Wednesday. "There was a difference of opinion. It was suggested that since we don't have the numbers and the Shinde camp is only going to swell, there was no point in going for a floor test since the legal battle would take a long time and losing the floor test could cause more embarrassment to the party," a leader said. A press conference by a senior Sena leader like Subhash Desai was suggested but this plan was dropped. Instead spokesman Sanjay Raut took a strident line on Friday. "We will win on the floor of the house, we won't give up. They (MLAs) have taken a very wrong step. We also gave them a chance to return to Mumbai (and mend fences). Now, we challenge them to come to Mumbai," he said. Earlier Raut had said the party is ready to withdraw from the MVA alliance provided the rebels return to Mumbai and meet the CM. Among senior leaders, Anil Parab, Anil Desai, Subhash Desai and Raut are still with Thackeray apart from 17 MLAs. "Meetings were held in Matoshree. There was a difference of opinion on whether a constitutional or legal battle will help now since it will take a long time. A section said had the CM resigned, Eknath Shinde may have come for negotiation. But Raut's view was the party could not surrender; a legal and constitutional battle was the only way out,," a source said.

Grim mood in Uddhav Thackeray camp: Sanjay Raut dares rebels to return
Eknath Shinde’s options: May have to approach courts or governor
Times of India | 7 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 05:18 am
Times of India
7 hours ago | 25-06-2022 | 05:18 am

MUMBAI: Four days after rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde raised the banner of revolt against the leadership of chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, the moot question is what are the options before him. Experts said since the 10th schedule of the anti-defection law amended in 2003 does not recognize a split, there are limited options before Shinde. Till 2003, if 2/3rd of members left a party, they could still form a separate group and not attract the anti-defection law. But since there was no end to defections, the law was further tightened. “Even if you quit the party with 2/3rd members, you still cannot escape disqualification,” former advocate general Ravindra Kadam told TOI. Kadam said Shinde has limited options. “Either he should submit that he represents the original Shiv Sena or he has the option to merge the group with the party which he is proposing to team up with. The new law does not recognize a split,” Kadam said. NCP leader Eknath Khadse said Shinde’s effort to take control of Sena has been thwarted by deputy speaker Narhari Zirwal’s decision to recognize Ajay Choudhary as leader of the Sena legislature party. All orders to enforce a whip or influence voting in the assembly flow from the legislature party leader Khadse said the revolt appears headed for a legal battle. “Whatever is the outcome of the deputy speaker’s decision, Shinde will have to approach the court to prove that he has the authority to appoint a legislative party leader and whip,” Khadse said. Former principal secretary (legislature secretariat) Anant Kalse said since the 10th schedule does not recognize a split, Shinde has limited options. “In my opinion, he should knock at the doors of Raj Bhavan, tell the Governor to convene a special session of the state legislature on the ground that the MVA government has lost majority,” Kalse said.

Eknath Shinde’s options: May have to approach courts or governor